Saturday, January 28, 2012

Corporate Votes?

"Hey, politicos, this Bud's for you!" Heavy into the political season with Super PAC's spending more than the candidates themselves, we are feeling the brunt of corporate free speech. But what does that mean?

Some US companies, that are multinationals, have more employees overseas, like Apple at a ratio of 8 employees overseas to every one here, as reported by Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, on NPR recently. Will Apple's political contributions and stance on issues help them with business here or is their desire to make sure business is easier there? Exxon, GM and others might be feeling the same thing. If Congress wants to pass a law that would benefit Joe Main Street but might hurt them doing business overseas, to what side of the issue will the money flow?

Who decides for Anheuser-Busch ("this Bud's for you!")? Is it the local executives? What if the execs at InBev, who own A-B from Belgium, don't like some laws or the stance of a particular candidate? Wouldn't they shift a pile of cash into the Super PAC that opposes him or her? What about Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Nestles and other foreign companies that have sites here? What about India's Tata, who owns a hotel and Eight O' Clock coffee? Oh, is it Chrysler talking or Fiat?

When the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205 that corporations have the right to free speech in political campaigns, they failed to make some distinctions: 1) ownership in the US; 2) predominance of business or employment domestically or internationally; 3) decisions by CEO, Chairman, Board, Executive staff, shareholders, employees--just who decides which side to support? 4) types of corporations.

Justice Kennedy in a majority opinion said one could not distinguish between media corporations and other corporations and that the court's minority opinion could prohibit opinions from being expressed in newspapers, television and blogs. However, any opinions in media streams are already identified as the presenter's opinion and not the opinion of the media corporation ("the views expressed here are not the views held by..."). However, no such disclaimer is made when corporations flood the airwaves with PAC ads.

Florida, you're in the midst of the battle this week. "This Bud's for you" as you sort out who's saying what and whether those ideas are good for US, us and you and me, or good for Belgium, Japan, Italy, India or China.

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